Brought to you by: Big Shucks
By Zach Walker
I like the style of recapping the game the way that I started last season, so once again, the three most pivotal plays from the SMU Mustangs’ game.
A summary of the USF game
Man, when these two teams get together on the Hilltop, it’s a high intensity, highly strung game that is a close one. The defeated feeling from freezing my face off when Tom Herman’s SMU team had victory thrown into the jaws of defeat two seasons ago. South Florida really doesn’t like waiting around for their points, they take them on their terms of speed. The Bulls had three, one play “drives” that equaled twenty-one on the board. The stats on this game skew SMU because USF just scored so damn quickly, but this game was a joy of football, played in actual fall weather. The Mustangs really couldn’t contain Quinton Flowers when they absolutely had to, but saying that, it was an SMU play going for it in the redzone on fourth and one to lose this one. The Mustangs have a one game season now. Senior game, next weekend against the American Conference West winner Naval Academy. If they win, they play in a bowl. They struggled to contain the running of Marlon Mack (129 yards) and Quinton Flowers (142 yards), so how can they handle the ball illusion of Navy and their grind-it-out triple option?
#1: 4th and 11 from the USF 49 yard line. The Mustangs forced Quinton Flowers sideways on third down, and forced the punt unit out for the Bulls. Routine stuff, right? Kick ball, catch or dodge ball, whistle. Well, James Proche decided that he’d field a punt while in his own endzone. Bad move, but alright. Get that out of your head, because he didn’t field it cleanly and muffed it into his own endzone, he had to track it down, pick it up, and advance it at all costs. He managed to get the ball to the three. The Mustangs overcame five terrible plays of their own, to piece together a twelve yard drive. Two great catches on third downs by Xavier Castille later by Courtland Sutton prolonged the drive that eventually scored on a gadget play. Ben Hicks takes the shotgun snap, flares the ball to Ke’Mon Freeman in the right flat, and he fired a strike to the streaking James Proche for a forty-three yard touchdown to knot the game at fourteen a side. Endzone to endzone for Proche, vilified to clutch in the span of six minutes and twenty-one seconds.
#2: 1st and 10 from the SMU 43 yard line. The Mustangs needed a solid drive that ended with them handing the ball to a referee standing in the endzone. They started strong, solid run from Braeden West, another solid third down converting catch by Xavier Castille, then another heavy dose of Courtland Sutton. On this first down, Ben Hicks faked the ball run, recocked, then employed a Farve-esqe shoulder heavy pump fake, but the cornerback covering Courtland Sutton was affected very little by the spectacle, and continued to play Sutton tight, and when the ball got to Sutton, Deatrick Nichols intercepted the pass. As they had done twice before in this game, the punishment from USF was swift and numbing. A sixty-five yard bomb to Tyre McCants, who had gotten behind Darrion Millines and Quinton Flowers planted a beauty on those in attendance.
#3: 3rd and 13 from the USF 42 yard line. On second down before this, Justin Lawler tackled both Marlon Mack and Quinton Flowers as they had an elongated read-option exchange, to bring up this third down. This play was a farce. It was a pitch toss to D’Ernest Johnson, who was going to throw the ball downfield. As he reared back to launch, Kyran Mitchell spun him around. Mid-spin, Johnson thought the best thing to do, was to pitch the ball back to Quinton Flowers, who was being shielded by Justin Lawler, who had the ball hit him and roll underneath him, where Anthony Rhone recovered the ball. It was comedy. It became severely less funny when the referees video review ruled him down when Mitchell spun him, costing the Mustangs beaucoup yardage. The Mustangs would eventually get into a position where they had a fourth and one, inside the fifteen yard line to continue driving for a dramatic finish. They would fail to convert, and lose but a great game nonetheless.